“Human Rights is the universal language of the powerless” – EU Special Rep. for Human Rights Lambrinidis


WYA Europe’s latest update from European Parliament, this time a report on the Intervention of the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights.

Special Rep. Stavros Lambrinidis


On Monday 13th, the European Parliament Sub-Committee on Human Rights had an open discussion with Stavros Lambrinidis. Mr Lambrinidis, a former Greek minister for foreign affairs has been the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights since 2012. This was the occasion for Members of the European Parliament to have an overview of his action as Special Representative and a few words on EU’s priorities in the field of human rights.

During a short introduction on the EU’s achievements, Mr Lambrinidis underlined the EU’s commitment to continue working with civil society and the whole world on strengthening human rights. He also underlined some of the biggest challenges that are worthy of EU action, such as the emerging attacks on the universality of human rights. Concerning these “dangerous attacks on Human Rights universality in the name of cultural relativism”, he stressed the fact that “human rights are the universal language of the powerless against the cultural relativism of the powerful” and that “human rights were not a battle between cultures and civilisations but a battle within cultures.”

Mr Lambrinidis continued his intervention by presenting a “7 E” strategy for the EU in its external action in order to strengthen human rights:

1) Empower:

Provide assistance to civil society around the world by empowering people with the tools that they need to establish free and democratic institutions that will guarantee respect for human rights. He pointed out that supporting human rights is not the promotion of European values but support to the aspirations of civil society.

2) Engage:

The EU should engage in this battle for the strengthening of human rights by supporting the governments and civil society members that want to work in favour of human rights.

3) Enlarge:

The recent attacks on the universality of human rights show a need for a broader coalition of like-minded countries. Mr Lambrinidis called the EU to be on the frontline of that coalition and advocated for an enlargement of that coalition.

4) Encourage:

The EU shall encourage respect for human rights in different countries and regions of the world. When improvements are made, they shall be pointed out. On the other hand, if clear infringements are detected, the EU has to point them out equally.

5) Enforce:

The EU must be in the frontline to ensure the accountability for human rights violations. Therefore the EU shall continuously support the International Criminal Court. The EU also needs to work on prevention measures, in order to prevent abuses of human rights.

6) Embody:

Mr Lambrinidis emphasized the fact that nobody is perfect when it comes to human rights; and therefore the EU must be flawless with its own regard to human rights. The EU shall continue its Human Rights challenges and continue to guarantee freedom of media, respect of civil society and free and democratic institutions. The EU must also closely monitor the impact of its external action on human rights in order to ensure their efficacy.

7) Elevate:

Mr Lambrinidis underlined the fact that the EU is only 5% of the global population and 20% of global GDP but 55% of global development aid comes from the EU and its Member states. Indeed, the EU is clearly the leader in that field, but knowledge of this must be promoted. Development aid is human rights aid; knowledge of the EU’s role in development has to be elevated.

Mrs. Valenciano, the Subcommittee chair, concluded the intervention by suggesting an eighth E for education, stressing the importance of education in promoting and strengthening human rights.

WYA would like to point out that the universality of human rights Mr Lambrinidis noted is endangered is also under threat due to the intervention of particular lobby interests in the promotion of new rights as human rights. These new rights are not necessarily universal values and there is no consensus among states about them, but still they are promoted systematically as universal human rights by some wealthy states, by Treaty Monitoring Bodies (TMBs) and by international institutions.

When these actors push for their particular agenda to be sacralised as human rights, some states respond by declaring that human rights are not universal because they only serve particular interests that are over-represented in international institutions. When movements present special interests as human rights, rather than emphasise that all human beings have dignity and deserve respect, they dilute the meaning of human rights and make their achievement more difficult.

WYA Europe is advocating from within the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights for the European Union to always bear in mind the understanding of human rights as an authentic expression of the solidarity arising as a legal instrument from the primacy of the dignity of the human person in its external action.

Become a Member of World Youth Alliance to support our work promoting Human Dignity as the source of Human rights and a person-centred approach to Human Rights in the Subcommittee of Human Rights in the European Parliament.

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